Kiwi Cool: Shopping For New Zealand-Made Souvenirs

When you go to the other side of the world, you want to bring back a few things to show for your trouble. Visiting New Zealand with my 1-year-old daughter, and with nephews at home in America, I became obsessed with finding them something actually made in the country. A stuffed kiwi bird or lamb toy, a merino wool baby blanket, or a fun T-shirt would do nicely, and I wouldn’t mind some jewelry or something small for our apartment either. In all of the cities I visited in New Zealand, I was impressed to find stylish, playful and innovative boutiques and vendors creating beautiful and unique home design, fashion and other Kiwiana. There’s enough Kiwi cool shopping that you might end up wishing you had a bigger suitcase.


Flotsam & Jetsam (Auckland) – A cross between an antique store and a hipster Restoration Hardware, this collection of colorful and covetable home items will make you contemplate a move to Auckland. Visitors from farther away might find interesting vintage, repurposed and retro home wares from New Zealand and all over the world. Check their Facebook page for details on the latest stock.Nelson Saturday market (Nelson, South Island) – New York City has street fairs and markets pretty much every day of the year if you look hard enough, but all too often, you find the same cheap tube socks, fried cheese and dough concoctions, and hodgepodge of junk. My expectations weren’t high for the weekly market in the arty town of Nelson on the top of the South Island, but after a quick walk through, I was glad I didn’t have too much cash to spend, as there was so much to buy. On a given weekend, you might find model airplanes crafted from soda cans, gourmet gluten-free tacos, and more knitwear than you can shake a sheep at. Local band performances, cooking demonstrations, or even a flash mob add to the festive atmosphere.

Pauanesia (Auckland) – This small shop is loaded to the gills with all things antipodean (a Brit term for a place on the other side of the world), with an emphasis on home textiles such as Polynesian-print tablecloths. If you have a little one to shop for (or just enjoy stuffed animals), consider one of the charming Kiwi “chaps” made from vintage and salvaged fabrics and send them a photo of your bird out in the world. You can also find a nice assortment of Paua shell jewelry, key chains, and other odds and ends much more thoughtfully and well-made than your average gift shop.

Iko Iko (Auckland and Wellington) – What drew me into the Wellington store was a window display of Dear Colleen‘s cheeky “Dishes I’d rather be doing” tea towels with “dishes” like Ryan Gosling and Mr. Darcy-era Colin Firth (get it?). I could have easily spent hours inside poring over the whimsical items, like a kiwi bird cookie cutter, Buzzy Bee cufflinks, or a CD from the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra. It’s full of things you don’t really need but really want, plus fun takes on everyday items.

Abstract Designs (Wellington) – You might call these artisanal cardboard cutouts. Abstract Designs makes creative sculptures and jewelry with a very local flavor. Perhaps you’ll pick up a 747 plane kit for the airplane nerd in your life, a pop-up building replica to remind you of your stay in Wellington, or a cruelty-free moose trophy head for your wall. Their designs are sold in many museum gift shops as well, but there’s a full selection at their Wellington studio and online.

Hapa (Christchurch) – Pop-up businesses have become the foundation for the new Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. The Re:START mall is the best example, built out of shipping containers and housing a mix of “old” Christchurch shops in temporary digs and new shops. There are several stores in the mall selling New Zealand goods, but Hapa stands out for their many beautiful and clever items, like a bear bean bag chair or a knitted “fox stole” scarf. Best of all, many goods are made or designed in Christchurch, so you can feel good about supporting the local economy.

Texan Art Schools (multiple stores in Auckland) – Don’t be confused by the name, it’s a play on the fact that it carries work from graduates of “tech(nical)s” and art schools. Texan Art Schools acts as one-stop shopping for dozens of Kiwi artists and designers, with an eclectic mix of home items, fashion and jewelry. You’re sure to find something unusual and authentic here like a set of Maori nesting dolls or a retro camper wall clock.

Photo from Auckland’s Queen Street shopping arcade. More “Kiwi Cool: New Zealand for the Unadventurous” to come.

Travel by freighter to the Marquesas Islands

There are some places that are just better seen by boat. If you don’t have your own sailboat or are averse to cruising on a mega-ship, you can still travel by boat around the Marquesas Islands on the Aranui 3 “Freighter to Paradise,” a real working freighter that welcomes a limited number of passengers aboard.

It sets sail from Tahiti every two weeks for a 14-day tour of the islands. There are daily stops at over a dozen remote islands, plus two full days at sea. The boat can hold up to 200 passengers and meets international safety standards. There are two bars and a swimming pool and the vessel offers standard, deluxe, and suite accommodations. All meals and wine are included in the cost of sailing.

Along with the 50 Polynesian crew and deckhands, guests onboard will visit some of the most untouched islands in the world on one of the last ships to carry both cargo and passengers. I’d say that beats a week on the Oasis of the Seas any day.

[via Urban Daddy]

10 Tips for getting a tattoo in Tahiti

Tahiti is one of the world’s top tattoo destinations and for a good reason: the Tahitians kinda sorta invented the whole tattoo thing, even giving us the word which derives from the Tahitian tatau, “to strike”.

Once upon a time in Tahiti, tattoos were made by taking a comb with teeth of sharpened wood or bone, dipping the tips into natural black ink and tapping it into the epidermis: tap, tap, tap. Then along came the tattoo gun, followed by Spring Break, bad Chinese charcter tats, and tramp stamps.

But Tahiti ain’t Cancun–tattoos have a long history and mean something here, which is why enthusiasts travel all this way for the real thing. If you are among such travelers, here are ten common-sensical things to think about before getting drawn upon:

Don’t rush
Please, please, do not do the following: come to Tahiti, notice a few cool tribal designs and think to yourself, “You know, I gotta get me one of them before my plane leaves in two days!” A tattoo is forever and ever, amen. Take time to learn and make an informed decision. A lot of enthusiasts take a ‘”recce” trip to Tahiti just to plan out their second trip in which they actually get the tat.

Do your homework
Read all about the history of Tahitian tattoos, the meaning of each design, and the range of artists out there. There are plenty of online sites and picture-laden books that can give you a better understanding of the particulars while a preliminary visit can give you a much clearer understanding of what you’re getting into.Ask
If you see a Tahitian on the beach with really cool ink, ask them where they got it. The really good, traditional work is often done by a family friend, and you might just get an introduction. These are small islands so the more you observe and ask, the more chance you have of learning who the most talented artists are.

Show & Tell
Visit prospective artists and ask that they show you photos of their previous work. It seems obvious, but not everyone is as smart as you. If in doubt about any of the work you see, move on. Despite all the talented artists in Tahiti, there are still a few impostors out there.

Go to the market
Papeete’s market is a wild visual destination in and of itself. While wandering among the piles of mangoes and goggle-eyed fish, visit the tattoo artists who hang around on the upper levels on Sundays. They cater to a local, Tahitian clientele and tend to do magnificent work.

Custom build
If in doubt, get a custom-designed tattoo, made just for you. Most Tahitian tattoo shops will have books that are loaded with traditional designs, however most Tahitian artists are actual artists who can draw up a beautiful tat just the way you want it. That’s part of what makes the experience so cool.

Reject realism
If you travel to Tahiti to get a tattoo of turquoise dolphins doing somersaults across your back, well then, you’re a moron. Likewise, there are tattoo artists who will gladly take your money to attempt a scrawling of Bart Simpson skateboarding across your thigh, but none of them know who Bart Simpson is. When in Tahiti, stick to to Tahitian designs and stick to black.

Tap it
For the full-on Tahitian experience, skip the comforts of the tattoo gun and get your design tapped into you skin the traditional way–with a boar’s tusk comb. This takes longer and costs a lot more (one or two helpers need to hold your skin taught while the artists punctures you about four thousand times), but it’s as close as you’re gonna get to the experience of the early explorers who first visited. Moorea Tattoo still offers this method, as do a few other artists.

Start saving now
A decent, singular tattoo in Tahiti costs upwards of 30,000 Polynesian Francs (about US$450). Start multiplying that number if you want to cover more than a shoulder or calf. In that same vein, make sure you’re not getting overcharged because you’re a white man. Even on a good day, Tahiti is super expensive.

Grin and bear it
But does it hurt? Yes it does–and in Tahiti, that’s kind of the point.